Critically examine the pros and cons of the Direct Subsidy Scheme in primary and secondary education in Hong Kong. Take two well-known schools as case examples (one D. S. S. and the other non-D. S. S. ) to illustrate your answer. Content I. Introduction II. Background III. Direct Subsidy Scheme (DSS) IV. Advantages of DSS 1. To schools 2. To society 3. To parents and students V. Disadvantages of DSS 1. To schools 2. To society 3. To parents and students VI. Case Study: D. S. S. – Diocesan Boys’ School VII. Case Study: Non-D. S. S. – La Salle College VIII. My Opinion IX. Reference I. Introduction
Since 1978, Hong Kong government has been providing free compulsory education to all children to the relevant group age. However, there is a growing trend for some parents and students not choosing free education but the one provided in Direct Subsidy Scheme (DSS) Schools or private schools. The aim of this paper attempts to evaluate DSS from different perspectives and thus by comparing a DSS school (Diocesan Boys’ School) with a non-DSS school (La Salle College), a more realistic view on this scheme could be reviewed. In addition my own opinion will be clearly expressed and elaborated.
II. Background There are mainly four types of schools in Hong Kong, which are private schools, government schools, aided schools and DSS schools. Aided schools receive subsidy from government but are run by voluntary bodies, government operates government schools. They deliver a curriculum recommended by the Government and offer free primary and secondary education. Some of the private schools receive financial assistance from the Government. Private international schools provide an alternative to the mainstream education, in exchange for much higher tuition fees.
Last but not least, DSS schools are run by various non-government organizations, they can charge school fee but are also subsidized by government. III. Direct Subsidy Scheme (DSS) The Direct Subsidy Scheme (DSS) was introduced in Education Commission Report No. 3 in September 1991 and it was launched in 1991 by the Hong Kong government. The implementation of DSS is in response to the intention to develop a strong private school sector by providing high quality schools other than government and aided schools.
Allowing DSS schools the maximum freedom with regard to curricula, fees and entrance requirements, that is consistent with basic educational standards, a more diversified choice for parents and students is created. Any aided schools and private schools that attain sufficiently high educational standards and has it own building, should be eligible to apply to join the DSS. Eligible schools will receive a subsidy according to the number of students enrolled and fee level. Until September 2012, there are 73 DSS Schools. Places offered by those DSS schools now account around 8% of total school places in Hong Kong.
It is appealing that there is a rising trend for the number of schools joining DSS. IV. Advantages of DSS The positive effects of DSS could be viewed from the following perspectives: 1. To schools Higher autonomy in decision-making DSS schools could enjoy high autonomy in decision-making; it allows a great flexibility to the school. Without the intervention of government, DSS Schools enjoy the freedom in school policies and direction, admission, teaching method and materials, curriculum, examination, school fees as well as the allocation of resources.
Enjoying the freedom in students’ admission, school can set their own admission criteria to assess the applicants, such as more considerations in interviews and extra curricular activities other than the student’s academic results. As a result, students with similar qualities could be grouped and received education according to their ability. Therefore, teaching progress is more effective and education efficiency could be raised. In addition, according to the Education Commission Report No. 3, class size of DSS schools is reduced, the number of students are reduced to 35 each class.
Moreover, the report also stated that there should be at least 1. 3 teachers in each class and a higher teacher-to-student ratio is required for senior year to improve the quality of class. Better quality of education could be promoted in a smaller class and with a higher teacher-to-student ratio, each teacher take care smaller portion students, better care can be provided. DSS schools are free to design their own curriculum as well as the teaching materials; therefore, they can vary the curriculum and teaching method based on the latest development of Hong Kong.
Students in DSS schools can participate in local and non-local examinations according to their will; their schools can adopt the Hong Kong syllabus or international examinations such as International Baccalaureate and GCE. This allows students to have a more diversified range of choices and have a better development in different areas. In addition, DSS schools can set their own medium of instructions according to students’ ability, English and Mandarin could be the major medium of instructions, students’ practical language skills could be trained up and be more competitive in the global market.
Wider source of income In terms of Finance, DSS schools obtain more funding comparing to government schools and aided schools. Not only receiving school fee from students, DSS schools can also possess government subsidy according to the number of students. Annual school fee of some of the DSS schools could be as high as $50,000. With the wider source of income, schools could have sufficient capital to support different kinds of activities or build more facilities for their students to develop particular interest.
It also allows a better allocation of resources after deducting the operational cost of the school. Better allocation of resources As many of the DSS schools were elite schools in Hong Kong, the higher flexibility in utilizing the resources uphold the quality of these schools and they are likely to reach an even higher standard. Firstly, DSS schools have more resources to organize extra curriculums, such as exhibitions, academic competitions, concerts and exchange programmes.
These activities allow students to have more practical experience rather than just learning theoretical knowledge from the books. Also, the participation in extra curriculum encourages students to develop in all aspects and train up more “all-rounded students”. Secondly, more high quality teachers could be recruited with the higher salaries. Teachers with higher qualification have the capacity to look for higher income, so they are more likely to choose DSS schools. According to a research, nearly 90% of teachers in DSS schools are university graduates. . To society Stimulate competitions between schools DSS encourages market competition between schools, since certain school fee would be charged, DSS schools need to improve their facilities and teaching quality in order to recruit more students who are willing to pay higher school fees; Non-DSS schools also need to compete in attracting elite students. As a result, under market competition, schools with lower standard will either improve or be eliminated, and stronger school sector will be created. Provide society with well-educated students
With DSS, the concept of “teaching students according to their capabilities” could be implemented; students with similar qualities could be grouped together to receive similar level of education. This could enhance the learning efficiency and leads to well-educated students to the society. Before DSS was launched, most people regarded international schools or overseas schools provide the best education quality. Hence, people would like to engage in overseas’ education or international schools despite the high school fee, which may create great loss in potential elites.
Encouraging private international schools to join DSS, more parents may turn to DSS schools. Therefore, this can prevent the loss of potential elites. 3. To parents and students More choices of schools Since DSS schools do not need to join the annual Secondary School Places Allocation (SSPA), students are free to choose any high quality schools and are not restricted by geographical barrier. Students who originally have the ability, but unable to enter a particular secondary school due to geographical restriction, can apply for the school after it joined DSS.
If students are not able to obtain a satisfied school place in SSPA, there are approximately 1000 “knock door places” among DSS schools available for them to apply for. What is more, the “one dragon system” attracts parents to apply for primary schools that have linkage with specific popular DSS secondary schools. For example, students that start their primary education in St. Paul Convent School could be promoted to the secondary school more directly. Therefore, students no longer need to worry for the promotion and can adapt secondary school life easily.
On the other hand, under the “hereditary system” of admission in some popular primary schools, first-born children have lower chance to get offered in the first stage of Primary One discretionary places. Recently, there are only 43% of applicants could successfully match their top choices, students and parents that are not content with their result could turn to DSS schools, which provide alternatives for students and parents to maximize the chance to receive better education. Higher quality of teaching
Not only the qualification of teachers employed could be secured to a high standard, but also more rewards could be granted to motivate the teachers. As shown in the diagram below, the teacher-student ratio is relatively higher in DSS schools due to sufficient funding allocate on employing teachers. Comparatively fewer students to focus on could reduce the workload of teachers and to further enhance the teaching quality. Statistics on teacher-student ratio of DSS schools and Non-DSS Schools School Name| Type of School| Teachers’ no. | Students’ no. Teacher-student ratio| HKCCCU Logos Academy| DSS| 151| 897| 6. 0| Diocesan Boys’ School| DSS| 120| 1373| 11. 5| Hong Kong True Light College| Aided| 58| 863| 14. 9| La Salle College| Aided| 91| 1524| 16. 8| (Source: Committee on Home-School Co-operation. Secondary School Profile 2010-2011) What is more, more funding could be allocated to motivate teachers. For instance, year-end bonus related to internal appraisal system maybe used to reward “good teachers”. This flexible payment scale of the teachers raises the incentives of teachers for better performance.
Better facilities to aid study With more funding spent on facilities, learning environment is improved and hence aid the study through a more interactive way of learning. More multimedia interactive learning aids could be used to operate lessons with more technical support. The new purchase or renovation of facilitates in schools provide students supports to develop into an all-round person. For example, some DSS schools have their private swimming pool, which is very rare among aided schools and government schools.
Above all, we can conclude the positive effects of DSS that it generally can meet its objectives by building up a strong private sector and it indeed provide more choices for parents to choose the most suitable schools for their children. V. Disadvantage of DSS The disadvantages of DSS could be divided into the following categories: 1. To schools Increase burden to teachers With the greater autonomy in decision-making, administrative works will increase the workload of the Principal and Board of Directors.
In addition, there are reports revealing that teachers of some DSS school in remote areas need to spend extra time on promoting their schools, teachers no longer only concentrate on their lesson preparations, the education quality provided is doubted to have increased or not. The high autonomy granted to the management level of DSS schools creates job insecurity of teachers. The power of Principal is too large that the opinions of teachers could not be heard, and there were some complaints from teachers about being forced to join the Language Benchmark Examination.
What is more, teachers’ concern about their “iron bowl” may not be as secure as before if the admission rate of school becomes lower. Last but not least, parents’ intervention in the school would impose heavy pressure to teachers, their teaching method or the quantity of homework they set may also need to adjust according to parents’ will. Teachers are one of the most important factors that can influence the education standard of a school, the increased pressure to teachers serve as a negative impact to the school. Eliminations due to market competition
The fierce market competition may eliminate away some schools with relatively low quality. Recently, the decreased birth rate reduces the admission of students, although government has suggested schools to reduce the admission by “211 “ or “111” policy, huge pressure are levied to some of the schools due to the fear of being eliminated. 2. To Society Violation of equality in education and meritocracy DSS violates the equality in education, as distribution of education is not equally distributed, students with lower ability would not be admitted.
Also, DSS schools put more emphasize in all rounded students and ability other than academic result is one of the most influential factors in getting the entry of some “elite schools”. However, to develop a hobby to a certain level needs enormous financial support, which is not favourable to low income family. Meritocracy is violated that the entry of DSS schools are not just based on the ability of students but also determined by the family income. Reduction of social mobility
Education has the function of social mobility; it is the social ladder for the grass-root level to achieve higher social status, DSS may deprive poor students the opportunity of getting into good education institution to improve their standard of living in the future. It also widens the economic gap between the lower class and upper class. Although scholarship may help some grass-root students to pursue better chance in DSS schools, the fear of the high school fee may stop those students from applying DSS schools. For example, Diocesan Girls’ School did not guarantee a scholarship before students start school in the past years.
Due to the fear of the high school fee, many low-income family ended up do not even apply for the school, and many talented student might not get the suitable education that match with their ability due to insufficient financial support. Widen the Economic gap If most of the “prestigious” schools join the DSS scheme, offspring of the high and the middle income groups will have more opportunity to receive high quality education, which enable them to find good jobs in the future. On the other hand, the lower classes do not receive enough education and they still remain at the grass-root level.
Nowadays, better education normally leads to a brighter future, so the rich become richer, and the poor become poorer, which finally leads to an uneven distribution of wealth. Create discrimination in the society DSS results in social divide. Since schools involving the handicapped are not encouraged to join DSS, only private schools which attain a sufficiently high educational standard are encouraged to join, this creates discrimination against the handicapped. Moreover, the low income groups are less affordable to study in DSS schools, this also results in discrimination against the poor.
Discrimination opposes the aim of DSS scheme that equal access to resources should be provided to every individual. 3. To parents and students Raise financial burden of family Although a certain amount of school fee will be allocated to set up scholarship in DSS schools, the school fees are generally high even with the scholarship. Due to the higher education quality provided by the DSS schools, the low-income group may still want to attend in DSS schools in order to leave poverty. It thus poses much burden to the family.
The extract below clearly shows the school fee charged by some of the “elite school”, with the median monthly domestic household income of $20,200 in Hong Kong, the average school fee of DSS schools already occupy over 15% of the annual income of a household. Therefore, the high tuition fee in DSS schools creates an even larger burden to low-income family. Extract of Average Annual School Fee of DSS Schools in 2012/2013 School Name| Average Annual School Fee| Creative Secondary School| $62200| Good Hope School| $40000| Diocesan Girls’ School| $38000| St. Paul’s College| $38000| Diocesan Boys’ School| $35300|
Ying Wah College| $16500| (Source: Committee on Home-School Co-operation. Secondary School Profile 2012-2013) To conclude, DSS practically hinders the equality of education, also it creates some social problems such as social immobility, social division and discriminations. VI. Case Study: D. S. S. – Diocesan Boys’ School Diocesan Boys’ School (DBS) was established in 1869. It is a well-known local “elite school” in Hong Kong. It decided to join DSS in 2002, a few years after the change of bandings categories in Secondary School Places Allocation (SSPA) that the students banding were changed from 5 bandings to 3 bandings.
Joining DSS allows DBS a full autonomy in admission as well as to maximize the freedom in designing and implementing curriculum. Having insufficient funds to include resources to assist students’ learning and thus failed to improve teachers’ salary packages were also reasons attracted DBS to turn into a DSS school. However, up to 90% of the teachers in DBS against the move to join DSS, they suggested that joining DSS would limit some potential students to study in DBS due to insufficient financial support.
What is more, the high proposed school fee of over $60,000 made some students felt that the school was attempted to join the scheme to “force” the students to pay a high school fee. Despite the disagreements, DBS joined DSS in 2004. School fee of the school ranged from $28,000 to $38,000, this range was slightly lower than the DSS schools that with similar level. However it may adjust its school fee to a higher level due to the new policy of government to reduce the admission of F. 1 students. VII. Case Study: Non-D. S. S. – La Salle College La Salle College is a subsidy school that was established in 1932.
It is a boys’ secondary school in Hong Kong and has been regarded as one of the most elite boys’ schools in Hong Kong that has a reputation for producing high flyers excel in various aspects. It is one of the few popular schools that refuses to join DSS, as La Salle College does not want to restrict potential students from receiving high quality education due to low income background. Following the mission of high quality human education for the whole person in fused with Christian value; it realizes students with their full potential and cultivates commercial, political and civil leaders.
Comparing with DBS, students in La Salle College come from a more diversified background, as family income would not hinder the students to pursue better education in La Salle College. Although La Salle College does not have full autonomy in admission, the result of 2011-2012 Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE) of it was better than the result of DBS. VIII. My Opinion In my opinion, I do not support DSS. Education should promote social mobility that a person’s right to have high quality education should not be hindered from his initial family financial background.
Meritocracy could help grassroots to pursue a better future, but the establishment of DSS violates meritocracy. The barrier imposed to students from low-income groups opposed the original aim of government to introduce DSS and it also opposes the objective of education – education for all walks of live, that to promote equal access to education. It may also widen the wealth gap, where Hong Kong is being notorious for many years. Also, education is not just about academic knowledge, personalities and inter personal skills are vitally important for a comprehensive development of a person.
The ability of the students in DSS schools to cooperate with people from different background is doubted, as students’ background is more converged to mid-income and high-income background. There is no doubt that DSS schools got more resources than public and aided schools. However, it is doubtful that whether these resources could efficiently raise the education quality. After all, at the time of difficulty in 1990s, the introduction of DSS was a great reform in saving private education. However, I do not think DSS is beneficial to Hong Kong now if the practical problems in the scheme could not be solved. Word count: 3080) IX. Reference 1. Education Commission Report, No. 3. , 1988, Hong Kong Government 2. Chan, Leung (1997) Education. In Social Policy in Hong Kong (pp. 55-69) 3. Hong Kong Direct Subsidy School Scheme Council http://www. dsssc. org. hk/main2/index. htm 4. Chang, T. (2002). Direct Subsidy can avert crisis facing elite school. South China Morning Post, Hong Kong 5. Yip, K. Y. , (2001) . The Article on the Direct Subsidy Scheme. The Economic Journal, Hong Kong. 6. Yung, M. S. , (2006). The policy of direct subsidy scheme schools in Hong Kong: finance and administration 7.
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